Commitment To Diversity
Uncovering the mysteries of the human genome and exposing humankind to the benefits and potential risks of this information will affect all humans regardless of race, class, gender, socio-economic status, or any other classification measure. For this reason, we have a commitment to diversity — we strive to involve and include all people in genomics research. By keeping the complete breadth and diversity of humankind at the heart of project goals, we are committed to steering research toward positive ends. As a community of scientists, we are committed to pursuing a greater understanding of the entirety of our diverse human genome and the consequences of this knowledge. We are also committed to making the results of our genomics research available to everyone in the public sphere. We are actively concerned about the ethical, social, and legal implications of genomics research.
A Unifying Vision
Many people have expressed fears about what human genome research will lead to. Will it illustrate our differences or our commonalities? Will it be used to lend scientific credence to the prejudices of the past? These are valid fears that should not be ignored.
As we discover more about our genome, we have learned that each human is extremely similar genetically to every other human. The DNA of any one person is 99.9% similar to that of any other person (with the exception of identical twins, which are 100% similar to each other). What’s more, humans are in fact very similar to other mammalian species. For example, the mouse and human genomes differ by only 1%! This makes the genetic differences that account for physical characteristics in people, such as skin color, eye color, height, or weight, insignificant in comparison. The exploration of the diversity of the human genome leads us to new ways of looking at ourselves and others.
Harnessing Genomic Technology Responsibly
Very soon, our knowledge of the human genome will give us powerful new tools to fight disease. The cures for many gene-linked illnesses will be discovered thanks to targeted therapeutic approaches. We are beginning to identify certain portions of the human genome that are linked with specific diseases. It is hoped that early identification of the genetic potential for developing these diseases will enable early intervention and more effective treatment for those not yet afflicted. Countering these positive results of the genome project is the fear that we may soon know enough about genetic engineering to select certain qualities for our children. Exploration of the ethical, social, moral, and legal implications now will allow society to enact policy and legislation to protect both the rights and lives of future generations.
Our Commitment to Diversity
It is for these reasons that the UC Santa Cruz Genomics Institute supports diversity in scholarship and research into genomics ethics. Because these issues must be explored from many perspectives, we believe it is essential to engage a diverse range of students and faculty in genome research and fully explore its surrounding ethical, legal, and social implications. The UC Santa Cruz Genomics Institute actively works to pave the way for talented students from diverse backgrounds to enter genomic sciences.
Through our Office of Diversity (formerly the Research Mentoring Institute or RMI), we offer diversity fellowships to support undergraduate and graduate students at UCSC who are working on genomics-related research. We work with local schools and recruit students at national conferences hosted by SACNAS, SHPE, NSBE, and SWE, and through programs such as MESA, CAMP, MARC/MBRS, MEP, ACE, ACCESS. Undergraduate students from underrepresented communities who are interested in genomics should check out our BD2K Summer Undergraduate Program.
Our Commitment to the Community
We are also interested in increasing public awareness of the potential benefits and risks of genomics research. We offer talks about our research and tours of our computational laboratory to local schools and community organizations. Please contact us for more information.